Urinating on a jellyfish sting, yes or no?

Urinating on a jellyfish sting, yes or no?

On vacation, on the beach, you get stung by a jellyfish. Bathers suggest that you urinate on the wound to avoid itching. Where did they get this and is it the right thing to do? The Rumor Detector answers them for you.

We must first remember that most jellyfish found in North America and Europe are harmless, except for people with allergies. Species living in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region can be deadly.

Jellyfish sting thanks to their tentacles which are covered with stinging capsules: nematocysts. When a bather brushes against a tentacle, these millions of nematocysts plant themselves in his skin and then release their venom. And this, whether the jellyfish is in the water or stranded on the sand!

The sting is extremely quick and causes intense and immediate pain, sometimes accompanied by tingling or numbness. Also, a purplish-red erythema reproducing the shape of tentacles appears within hours of contact.

Urinating on a jellyfish sting, yes or no?

Urinating on the wound

However, the care to be taken in the event of such a bite is the subject of several rumors on the Internet. One of them, popularized by an episode of the television series Friends in 1997, involves urinating on the wound.

The idea is that urine contains ammonia which neutralizes pain. But that's not true: a team from the Flemish Marine Institute in Belgium analyzed more than 80 studies on treatments for jellyfish stings. She concludes that the urine could burst the stinging cells that had not yet released their venom, which could therefore increase the pain.


Vinegar is also suggested, but the results obtained are mixed. The same Belgian researchers found that applying vinegar to the skin for 30 seconds is effective for the stings of some species of jellyfish, but in others it can make the situation worse by releasing venom from the nematocysts. Already in 2012, a review of studies on the subject published in The Annals of Emergency Medicine suggested that vinegar caused exacerbation of pain or discharge of nematocysts in the majority of species.

Treatment should therefore be ruled out… unless you are a jellyfish specialist capable of identifying the species that has just stung you!

Sea water, hot water and ice

Other treatments widely advertised on the Internet include the use of fresh water, sea water, and ice. Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa reviewed 2,000 studies to decide between hot water and ice. According to their results published in 2016 in the journal Toxins, hot water should be applied to the wound, without being boiling – between 45 and 50 °C – for 20 minutes to “ deactivate ” the jellyfish venom.

They also found that oral painkillers, seawater and a slurry of baking soda and seawater, had “more positive than negative effects” against nematocyst inhibition and relieved pain.< /p>

The other literature review, published in 2012, concluded that hot water and lidocaine appear to be more generally beneficial in reducing pain. Since these treatments are difficult to access on a beach, the authors suggested removing the nematocysts (with tweezers or, after covering them with sand, a piece of cardboard), then washing the wound with salt water.


If you get a jellyfish sting, you don't have to humble yourself and ask a friend to urinate on your wound. Just remove any irritating filaments with tweezers and then rinse the irritated area with salt water. You can then immerse the bite in hot water for about twenty minutes.

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